Choosing a Cleaner

For many homeowners, their carpet, rugs, and furniture are some of their biggest investments (after house and car).

Yet many are unaware that proper cleaning can extend the lifespan of their valued upholstered furniture, carpets, and rugs. While replacing these items can cost thousands, a good cleaning may cost just a few hundred or less.

Spending time to find a really good cleaner is a worthwhile investment. And a top-quality professional cleaner may be able to revive carpet, rugs, or upholstery that seemed ready for the dump.

Conversely, poor quality and careless cleaning may actually damage your property, from scratches on the walls and floor, to dyes that run, to leaving a cleaning solution residue that leads to fiber matting and faster re-soiling.

Our clients with second homes in other states often ask us, “How do I find a good cleaner there?” In our opinion, these are some questions to ask and things to consider:

  1. Ask friends for a referral:
    The most important thing is to ask people you know for a referral—from someone who is very pleased with the cleaning technician’s work.
  2. Ask the cleaner if he is an “Owner-Operator”:
    We suggest choosing a company that has an owner-operator because that usually means that the knowledgeable guy you talk to on the phone will be the same one that actually cleans your carpet, rug, or upholstery. In larger organizations, the guy with all the knowledge—the best technician—is often assigned to customer sales and phone support to better answer your questions and develop more business. The junior technician is the usually the one sent out to do the cleaning to gain experience.
  3. Ask about his cleaning equipment:
    For mounted, wall-to-wall, synthetic carpet:
    Look for a cleaner who has truck-mounted steam-cleaning equipment. If you have heavily-soiled carpets, you want to make sure the technician carries rotary steam cleaning attachments.
    They will scrub, clean, and extract the water and cleaning solutions all at the same time. If your carpet is made from natural fiber, you want to be sure to find a technician experienced with your fiber and carpet type.

    For oriental and area rugs: Cleaning rugs is a highly specialized service. Choose your technician from a trusted referral because the technician needs to be knowledgeable and experienced with many different kinds of fibers, dyes, stains, and rug structures. Avoid any cleaner who plans to clean your rug on his or your driveway. Make sure the technician has his own studio or workshop equipped with specialized tools dedicated to cleaning rugs. In our experience, some rugs can be lightly surface cleaned in your house but 95% of the rugs require specialized tools in a studio. Some stores offer fast machine cleaning of rugs, but we believe that a studio cleaning by hand, by an experienced professional with quality equipment, offers the best individualized care for your rug.

    For upholstery: Make sure the technician has a low-moisture, no-drip upholstery cleaning tool. These tools will keep him from over-wetting your upholstery when cleaning.

  4. Ask and evaluate his cleaning process:
    See if he mentions a dry vacuum step, a pre-spray step, and a step for spot cleaning stains. Notice if he talks about taking a step to rinse after cleaning. If not, he may leave cleaning solutions in the carpet, rug, or upholstery, and it will re-soil much faster.
  5. For carpets and upholstery,
    Ask about typical dry times and steps to speed drying:
    Ask, What kind of dry time can I expect for a moderately soiled (carpet or upholstered piece), and do you take any extra steps to speed up dry times?
    Dry times are longer for heavily soiled items. Does he use air movers or blowers to speed up dry times? For carpets, does he use extra dry strokes to dry carpet faster?
  6. Ask what steps he takes to protect your property and to clean up:
    When a cleaner is coming to your home, you want someone who is concerned about preserving your house and your property. You want someone who respects your property, does not scratch your paint or floors, is careful with your furniture, and does not leave a big mess.
    A careful cleaner may set up wall guards to prevent paint scratches and marks by corners, move or protect delicate items, and do a “leave no trace” cleanup.
  7. If your carpet, rug or upholstery has stains,
    ask about the cleaner’s experience and process for stain and spot removal:
    Some cleaners use a single treatment for all stains, because they don’t know the special treatments for specific stains. A master cleaner knows just what cleaning solutions and treatment to use for each type of stain, from wine to juice, from grease to pet urine, from red dye to candle wax. The stains are different, so their optimal treatments are different.
  8. For a carpet cleaner:
    Ask if they pre-spray any areas?
    Pre-spraying traffic areas helps provide optimal cleaning.

    Ask if they spot clean minor stains?
    Minor stains like food, grease and oil stain removal should be included.

    If your carpet is under warranty, make sure your cleaner is knowledgeable about and qualified to perform warranty-style cleaning.
    Check your carpet’s warranty. Some warranties list specific qualifications for cleaners and the cleaning process, because using the wrong cleaning solution or equipment may damage your carpet. For instance, StainMaster carpets should be cleaned with a solution of 9.9 or lower pH, because a higher pH solution causes the carpet to lose its ability to repel stains.

  9. For an upholstery cleaner:
    Ask if he knows how to clean the type of fabric covering your upholstery?

    Ask him to describe his process for cleaning that type of fabric (such as silk, cotton, linen, etc.)
    For example, silk should be dried immediately. You should feel comfortable that the cleaner is knowledgeable and experienced.

    Ask if he tests for color fastness, and how he does so?
    The cleaner should test to see if dyes will run with moisture or cleaning solutions that he will use for that particular fabric. He should test every different color on each piece.

  10. For a rug cleaner:
    For a natural fiber rug, ask if he knows how to clean the types of fibers and structure in your rug?

    Ask him to describe his process for cleaning that type of fiber (such as wool, sisal, silk, etc.)
    For example, a multi-colored wool rug should never be steam cleaned. You should feel comfortable that the cleaner is knowledgeable and experienced.

    For a natural fiber rug, ask if he tests for color fastness, and how he does so?
    The cleaner should test to see if dyes will run with moisture or cleaning solutions that he will use for that particular fiber. He should test every different color on each rug.

    Ask how he cleans the fringe?
    For most natural fiber rugs, the fringe is cotton, and should be cleaned separately and dried quickly. Letting the fringe dry at a normal speed may lead to yellowing of the fringe. A good rug cleaner will have special solutions to reverse yellowing if it occurs.

We hope you find these tips helpful, and find a great cleaning technician to help you.


If you are located in the Monterey Peninsula area, please feel free to call us for more information or to talk about your carpet, rug, and upholstery cleaning needs. We are happy to help.

R.L. Osborn 
Professional Quality Cleaning of Carpets, Rugs & Upholstery
1207 Sylvan Road, Monterey CA 93940